What Should You Do When Your Child Has Allergies in Thailand?

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How to deal with child allergies in Thailand

Food allergies can be frightening, especially when you and your family have just moved to a new country. Here are some necessary precautions you should take in Thailand:

Make an appointment with a local doctor immediately
Allergies change, evolve and, in some lucky cases, disappear with time. If you’ve just moved to Thailand, it may be worth doing a full set of allergy tests (absolutely no fun, but potentially invaluable) to establish a baseline. At the very least, talk to the doctor about specific challenges you may run into while living in Bangkok.

Avoid street food
This one’s tough. Street food is an integral, and admittedly delicious, part of the local culture. Unfortunately, for a child suffering from severe food allergies, it’s simply too big of a risk. Street vendors tend to use the same cooking utensils for everything, usually without a thorough washing in between. Eggs, squid, shellfish, peanuts, gluten and other common triggers are nearly ubiquitous in Thai cuisine, and it’s hard to guarantee that a dish won’t have traces of something harmful.

Be careful of cross-contamination
Street stalls may be the most obvious place to watch out for cross-contamination, but they certainly aren’t the only one. When you go to a restaurant, be sure to mention your concerns to the staff or manager ahead of time. If you’re particularly worried, call ahead and go early in the evening, when cooking surfaces are cleanest and the kitchen has time to accommodate specific commands. Avoid deep-fried foods entirely, as most places reuse the cooking oil for just about everything, so there’s no way to know what it might have come in contact with.

Cross the language barrier
Is your Thai less than stellar? You don’t want to be forced to rely on gestures and broken sentences in the middle of a crisis. Carrying a card explaining what you are allergic to in Thai, such as the ones available at Select Wisely (selectwisely.com), will avoid any communication problems.

Carry an EPI pen at all times
This small, highly portable device could save your child’s life. Make sure you and all of your children know how to use it properly and keep it with you as a backup.

Do some research
Did your child just get invited to a birthday party? Call the other kid’s parents and ask where it’s being held and what kind of food will be served. There’s no reason this has to come across as pushy or demanding. Just politely voice your concerns and make sure that your child will feel comfortable and safe. Most children don’t want to stand out because of their allergies; doing some discreet prep-work will ensure that they can have a good time without feeling embarrassed or anxious on the big day.

Carry safe foods when traveling
Kids are natural grazers. Most like to eat small amounts throughout the day to fuel their metabolisms, and, like the rest of us, get cranky when hungry. Throw a few hermetically sealed (ideally healthy) snacks in your purse to make sure they have something safe to nosh on when on the go.

Photo Credit: peg5450 via Compfight cc

ExpectingExpats.com

Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

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